Codan The Librarian


Posted on: November 23, 2006

I don’t know about you but I’ve just had a hell of a time trying to figure out just what chmod is and how it works. Not being as familiar with Unix language, using the Terminal to figure things out has been very much trial and error. I do google searches for various things and find forums galore where others also ask similar questions. I’ve not been satisfied with some of the answers, because they tend to also use coded language. The thing is, which I just discovered, in Mac OS X, you can change the mode (chmod = change mode), i.e. the permission particular users have for anything and everything that is window-accessible. You don’t have to go into the Terminal and try and figure out the language, nor the particular code numbers. (Like if you type in the Terminal sudo chmod 755 “the particular file” that means something to the effect that everybody can read that particular file but only the owner can alter the file.

But you know what, God bless the designers of OS X. They’ve made it so that you can do this without having to type a whole bunch of this and that. Curse them for not making it absolutely clear you can do this though! What you can do is right click on any file or folder and select “Get Info.” This section has information for you about the particular file or folder. You can see a whole bunch of things, including at the bottom “Ownership and Permissions,” right there, blatantly available for you to alter at your command! And in code you can understand. Instead of trying to remember what 755 stands for or 644, you can look here and see that you, as the owner of that file can “Read and Write” — i.e. read the file, open it, and alter the contents of the file. You see the next section for Group. If you click on the name under Group, you see that there are numerous different groups that can possibly access your particular file. These groups seem to be local, i.e. on the computer or network. Then it shows what access they have. They can either “Read and Write,” “Read only” or “No access.” Ah, the simplicity! Finally is a user called “Others.” This is anybody else that has access to this file or folder on your computer. Normally for this user, you would keep it at “Read Only,” because frankly you don’t want others to change things on your computer without your knowledge.

It gets better. If you have a website and you host it remotely, you can do the same with your FTP software. I use Cyberduck, and it has a function, (also through right-clicking), where you can change the user permissions for any file or folder on your website hosted remotely. They take it one step further to show you the Unix code numbers for each setting. So you can understand what chmod 644 stands for.

But seriously, I think computer geeks get just a little too esoteric sometimes, when a simpler way is available. Not everything has to be done through command lines in the Terminal. Plus, it would be nice if installation programs would not just tell you to chmod something with the assumption that you know what chmod means. We’re not all computer geeks yet. 😉


1 Response to "CHMOD"

[…] I’ve written a post on chmod in my librarian/webdesign blog, that I wanted to share with our larger readership. I don’t know about any of you, but I’ve had a hard time with the learning curve on computer programming and scripting language. I’ve discovered an easier way to understand chmod, and I’ve written it on the other blog. This is for Mac’s OS X only, though I’m sure Windows XP is not that different. […]

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